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Police to consider rural officers ‘routinely carrying guns'
The National Police Chiefs' Council is considering enabling front-line officers in remote, rural communities to be routinely armed.
Due to a lack of specialist counter terrorism firearms officers, the notion is being carefully consider by the police chiefs after a recruitment drive to increase these officers in England and Wales fell short by approximately 100.
The Home Office has funded an extra 874 armed officers in England and Wales in the last two years, predominantly in response to the Paris terror attacks in 2015, in which 130 people died, and the consequent attacks in London and Manchester last year. Whilst this lifted the total number of armed officers to more than 6,400 in April 2017, police are concerned that a firearms unit could be between 30-70 miles away in rural communities, hindering the response time during a possible terrorist attack.
While police have said that arming officers in remote areas would be a last resort, they maintain concern that unarmed officers in rural communities would be ‘sitting ducks’ in the event of a terror attack.
Simon Chesterman, National Police Chiefs' Council lead for armed policing, explained that police chiefs had conducted ‘many layers of the analysis... to understand where is best to place these officers’, and that arming rural police forces ‘does not need to happen at the moment’.
Chesterman said: "Of course there are communities within England and Wales where an attack is highly unlikely. But ultimately, if something does happen, we have got to be able to provide an armed response. We can't put an armed police officer on every street corner everywhere across the whole of the United Kingdom, so what we've had to do is analyse the threat. But I can't rule it out at this stage, in terms of making sure that all communities get the right level of protection from armed police."